September 05, 2023

Back to D.C. – Here’s What’s on the Docket

Hello Folks –

I hope you all had a terrific Labor Day weekend. It’s hard to believe that September is already in full swing, though I’m looking forward to football season and watching the Mariners make a run at the playoffs for the second straight year!

In just a week or so, I’ll return to D.C. to continue work on next year’s federal budget and other matters about which you might want to hear. So, on to the news!

Preventing a Government Shutdown: A Matter of Responsible Choices

For the next few weeks – and potentially for the next few months – you’ll likely hear media stories about a potential government shutdown. I want to give you the inside scoop on what’s going on here. Regular readers of this newsletter know that I’m not a partisan bomb-thrower. I try to work with my colleagues to move the country forward. So, I’m going to do my best to share the behind-the-scenes details in a way that sticks to the facts.

There are three things to take away from this situation.

First – a government shutdown would be incredibly stupid. Shutdowns wreak havoc on federal workers like those who protect our national parks, civilian shipyard employees, and the entire Coast Guard. But on top of that, they hurt our economy. I still remember speaking with a hotel owner who said they lost three weeks of bookings during the last shutdown because the national parks were closed.


Second – a government shutdown is entirely avoidable. Usually, shutdowns are caused when the two parties can’t agree on the overall size of the spending pie, how much goes to defense, and how much goes to non-defense.

But Congress and the White House actually agreed on these issues way back in June when it passed bipartisan legislation dealing with the debt limit. That agreement had the sign-off of Speaker Kevin McCarthy, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and President Joe Biden. In other words – it was bipartisan.

So, why is there talk of a shutdown when there was an agreement? What’s going on here?

Well, the Freedom Caucus (a far-right group of House Republicans) didn’t like the deal. In fact, as you may recall, they shut down the House floor the week after the bipartisan debt ceiling vote. You can read about that here.

Unfortunately, that led Speaker McCarthy to renege on the bipartisan agreement. You can read about that here.

So, as a consequence, unlike the Senate (which has been crafting bipartisan appropriations bills this year at the agreed-upon spending levels), the House has been voting on spending bills that are far below the levels that had bipartisan agreement.

Sadly, it got even worse than that. The House Republicans then decided to load these bills up with a bunch of partisan stuff that has nothing to do with appropriations. The partisan bills that passed out of the House Appropriations Committee included all sorts of anti-abortion language and anti-LGBT language. You can read about that here and here.

Unfortunately, this has moved the House further and further away from an agreement with the Senate and with the White House. And now you’ve got some of the most extreme members of the House embracing the prospect of a shutdown. You can read about that here.

So, when I say a shutdown is entirely avoidable, what do I mean?

Well, there is a path forward for passing bipartisan bills that would avert a shutdown. It means sticking with the spending levels established in the bipartisan agreement passed in June. It means rejecting efforts by the very far right to use these spending bills as a means to fight culture war issues. It means focusing on progress rather than partisanship.

Third and finally, you should know this – I’m going to fight like heck to prevent a shutdown.

A shutdown would be particularly damaging in our region. Why? Because the federal government (and particularly the Defense Department) is our region’s largest employer.


Folks like you and me know federal workers aren’t political chess pieces; they are our neighbors, friends, and dedicated workers who perform essential tasks ranging from managing federal forests to providing crucial public services.

In the days ahead, I’ll be doing everything I can to prevent my most extreme colleagues from shutting down the federal government.

Championing the Needs of Our Rural and Tribal Communities

Every few years, Congress moves to pass a Farm Bill – legislation that plays a pivotal role in shaping the country’s agricultural, nutritional, and forestry policies. The Farm Bill (despite the name) isn’t just about farms. It usually includes policies focused on rural communities, tribes, and other issues that really matter in our neck of the woods. With that in mind, as Congress makes progress on the Farm Bill this fall, I’m working to advance some legislation that I introduced earlier this year to help our region:


Supporting Rural Hospitals

Earlier this year, I sponsored a range of bills targeted at enhancing life in our rural areas. In July, I put forward the bipartisan Rural Hospital Technical Assistance Program Act. This legislation aims to fortify rural hospitals, making quality health care accessible for everyone, regardless of their geographic location. Having grown up on the Olympic Peninsula, I understand the importance of having quality medical facilities nearby. My bill seeks to support vital institutions like Olympic Medical Center and Jefferson Healthcare and improve health care where help is most needed – in rural America.


Empowering Tribal Communities

In August, I introduced the REACH Our Tribes Act. This bipartisan bill focuses on making federal aid more impactful for Tribal communities by giving them a voice in budget decisions and by making resources more accessible. The U.S. Department of Agriculture offers valuable programs for rural economic development, but tribal communities often miss out due to various barriers. My legislation aims to rectify that imbalance.


Protecting Nutritional Assistance

Finally, I’ll be working to resist attempts to weaken essential programs like SNAP and Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, which serve as lifelines for many in our communities.

A Historic Announcement: Lowering Drug Prices for Seniors

Over the years, I’ve had countless conversations with seniors and working families in our region who are burdened by the skyrocketing costs of prescription medications. Hearing stories of folks having to skip doses or split pills because they can’t afford the full prescription is heartbreaking.

This week, I’m pleased to report that the Biden Administration has taken a significant step in addressing this issue. They’ve recently announced the first set of medications that will undergo price negotiations with Medicare, a provision included in the Inflation Reduction Act which became law around one year ago.


This is a historic moment: for the first time, Medicare will use the federal government’s purchasing power to negotiate lower prices for commonly used prescription drugs, making them more affordable for the public – and for taxpayers.

Rest assured; I’ll continue to advocate for affordable prescription drugs for everyone in our community.

Working for You


Striving for a Healthier Community

During National Health Center Week, I had an opportunity to visit with the folks at Peninsula Community Health Services in Port Orchard. Thanks to Juliane and the team for providing critical, affordable medical, dental, and behavioral health care to folks in our region.


Connecting with Tribal Partners

I had a productive meeting with the Skokomish Tribe to discuss their Community Project Funding request for the Waterline Extension Project. Safe and reliable water systems are essential for the health and economic development of the Tribe. I’m proud to fight for this project!


Removing Barriers to Higher Education

It was great to speak at the Cammies to College fair in Bremerton. The road to higher education can sometimes seem daunting, but with help from the Support The Enlisted Project, there’s a path for everyone. Thanks to all who advocate on behalf of servicemembers, veterans, and their families!

OK – that’s it for now. As always, I’m honored to represent you.

Derek Kilmer
Derek Kilmer